Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “World of Foreign Service and Diplomacy”

State Magazine (Department of State)

State Magazine (Department of State)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What is life like overseas?
  • What are some current initiatives to care for State Department employees and their dependents?
  • What might the obituary of a Foreign Service Officer look like?


Magazine for employees of the State Department. Issues are available online from 1998 forward. Issues prior to 1998 are available in paper at many Federal Depository Libraries. Issues feature current programs for State Department employees, post descriptions and occasional employee profiles. Also carries obituaries of recently deceased personnel and retirees.

Post information in State should probably be cross checked in other sources, including the State Department’s own Travel Information site at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country.html. A case in point is the article on the US Embassy in Katmandu, Nepal in the May 2013 issue of State. Nepal generally and Katmandu in particular are described in glowing terms. As of June 2013, the travel page for Nepal at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/nepal.html was much less generous and detailed crime against foreigners. See also the description of Nepal’s government in the June 2013 National Geographic article Everest Maxed Out.


Peace Corps Manual

Peace Corps Manual – http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=about.policies.docs.manual

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Under what conditions may a Peace Corps Volunteer get married and still stay in the Peace Corps?
  • Would a couple with grade school age children be eligible to serve in the Peace Corps?
  • What procedures are followed in the case of a Peace Corps Volunteer who has gone missing?


This manual is a sort of bible governing the conduct of Peace Corps volunteers and how they are treated by the agency. The manual is divided into the following sections:

  • 000 Interim Policy Statements and Manual Content
  • 100 Authorities, Organizations and Functions
  • 200 Volunteers
  • 300 Programming
  • 400 Safety and Security
  • 500 Administrative Services
  • 600 Human Resources Management
  • 700 Financial Management
  • 800 General Services

Foreign Service Grievance Board (Diplomats Submitting Grievance)

Foreign Service Grievance Board (Submitting a Grievance)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some claims that Foreign Service Officers bring against the government?
  • Who decides whether Foreign Service Officers have legitimate complaints?


The Foreign Service Grievance Board is the body that takes the appeals of Foreign Service employees against their agency. I’ve selected this page to introduce you to the site because the home page does not have the mission of the board.

An overview of the types of cases brought to the Foreign Service Grievance Board can be found by examining the Board’s annual reports. Here are examples from the 2011 report:

Benefits: “home leave allowances, rest and recuperation travel, overseas comparability pay, charges for damages to an apartment, overpayment of annuity, and living quarters allowance.”

Evaluations: “In eleven cases, the grievant either contested material that was included in their Official Performance File (OPF) as being falsely prejudicial; claimed that material was improperly omitted from the file; or claimed that a procedural error had occurred, causing harm to their careers.”

Disciplinary: “The Board decided ten disciplinary cases in 2011, covering a range of issues: An Assistant Regional Security Officer’s altercation with a bodyguard; security infractions; leaving an embassy leased apartment in poor condition; mishandling of classified information; issuance of a visa to an ineligible applicant; failure to report an embassy colleague for illegal drug use; failure to disclose pertinent information during a security clearance update; and inappropriate conduct with a Locally Employed Staff (LES) member. “

In the past year or so, the Board has posted a database of grievances. So you can now view cases directly. Choose browse grievances or search grievances from the left hand column. Grievances are searchable by keyword, year or case numbers.


Foreign Affairs Manual (State Department)

Foreign Affairs Manual (State Department) –https://fam.state.gov/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What responsibilities do US embassy and consular officials have towards US citizens?
  • Why can’t a US diplomatic office provide assurances that a US citizen will show up for a trial?
  • How does the State Department manage aircraft under its jurisdiction?


The Foreign Affairs Manual describes the organizational responsibilities and authorities assigned to each major component of the State Department. According to the introduction, this work “cites the more important legislation and executive orders, accompanied by charts, where appropriate, relating to the responsibilities of the Department of State.”

The manual is divided into the following sections:

  • Organization and Function
  • General
  • Personnel
  • Financial Management
  • Information Management
  • General Services
  • Consular Affairs
  • Visas
  • Public, Educational, and Cultural Affairs
  • Legal and Political Affairs
  • Diplomatic Security
  • Training and Professional Development
  • Logistics Management
  • Overseas Buildings Operations
  • Medical Program

Foreign Affairs Handbooks (State Department)

Foreign Affairs Handbooks (State Department) – https://fam.state.gov/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What determines the classification level of a State Department telegram?
  • What does it mean for a post to be on “minimize” status and what conditions could lead to it?
  • What are the responsibilities of a Chief of Mission?
  • What are the duties of a Pouch Control Officer?


The following handbooks are available from this site:

  • 2 FAH-1 Foreign Affairs Manual Handbook
  • 2 FAH-2 Post Management Organization Handbook
  • 3 FAH-1 Personnel Operations Handbook
  • 3 FAH-2 Foreign Service National
  • 4 FAH-1 Account Structure and Classification Codes Handbook
  • 4 FAH-2 Disbursing Officer Handbook
  • 4 FAH-3 Financial Management Procedures
  • 5 FAH-1 Correspondence Handbook
  • 5 FAH-2 Telecommunications Handbook
  • 5 FAH-3 TAGS Terms Handbook
  • 5 FAH-4 Records Management Handbook
  • 5 FAH-5 Information Technology Systems Handbook
  • 5 FAH-7 Graphics Standards Handbook
  • 5 FAH-8 Web Development Handbook
  • 5 FAH-11 Information Assurance Handbook
  • 6 FAH-5 ICASS Handbook
  • 14 FAH-1 Department-Wide Personal Property Management
  • 14 FAH-2 Contracting Officer’s Representative Handbook
  • 14 FAH-3 Acquisition Career Management Program Handbook
  • 14 FAH-4 Pouch and Mail Handbook
  • 15 FAH-1 Facilities Maintenance Handbook

Foreign Service Officer Career Tracks (Department of State)

Foreign Service Officer Career Tracks (Department of State) – http://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/officer/career-tracks

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are the qualifications to be a Foreign Service Officer?
  • How much of a Foreign Service career can one expect to live overseas?
  • What are the general working conditions for a Foreign Service Officer?
  • What are the “13 dimensions” that the Foreign Service looks for in their officers?


Description of the following types of careers within the US State Department’s Foreign Service:

  • Consular Officers
  • Economic Officers
  • Management Officers
  • Political Officers (Only class to become ambassadors)
  • Public Diplomacy Officers

Each type of officer has a brief description and an associated video. This page links to more extensive information about Foreign Service Officers in the following areas:

  • Where We Work
  • Who We Look For
  • Family Life
  • Is the Foreign Service Right for You?
  • Career Tracks
  • Which Officer Career Track is Right for You?
  • Test Information and Selection Process
  • Benefits

For additional, specialized job classes within the Foreign Service, see the Foreign Service Specialist page at http://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/specialist.

Diplomatic Security (State Department)

Diplomatic Security (State Department) – https://www.state.gov/m/ds/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What can be in diplomatic pouches?
  • What are the qualifications to be a State Department Special Agent?
  • Where can a diplomatic courier expect to be posted?
  • What sorts of tasks might a Security Engineering Officer be expected to carry out?


This page provides brief information on the following diplomatic security job classifications:

  • Special Agents
  • Security Engineering Officers
  • Security Protective Specialists
  • Security Technical Specialists
  • Diplomatic Couriers

Each job title leads to a page with a little more information on the job, plus sections on qualifications and salary and benefits. Most pages also include information on training.

Civil Service Officer Job Categories (State Department)

Civil Service Officer Job Categories (State Department) – http://careers.state.gov/work

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What types of positions are filled by Civil Service Officers?
  • Would a Civil Service Officer be likely to be an ambassador?
  • What is involved in a background investigation and how long might it take?


Brief summaries of State Department careers through the US-based civil Service. The job categories listed are:

  • Foreign Affairs
  • Personnel Management
  • Management Analysis
  • General Accounting and Administration
  • Budget Administration
  • Legal Counsel
  • Passport Visa Services
  • Public Affairs
  • Contract Procurement
  • Information Technology Management

This page also links to these related sections:

  • Where We Work
  • Who We Look For
  • Selection Process
  • Vacancy Announcements
  • Benefits

You may find the Vacancy Announcements section valuable for details on duties of different types of civil service officers.

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